Monday, December 8, 2008

Sticking up for the bossman...

Okay, okay. All traditional journalists have a thing or two to say about Sam Zell (CEO of the Tribune Co., the parent company of The Daily Press, where I work). Most hate him and the rest can just barely stand him. I think he came at an inopportune time to do something the business needed: shake it out of its self-induced fog of contentment. Unfortunately, it was too little too late to save us the easy way. So this means that we have to save ourselves the hard way, which is exactly what Chapter 11 is. A way to save ourselves from debtors so we can have time to do a drastic reorganization, the same reorganization we've been needing.
As a sort of nontraditional employee here (I'm new to the newspaper business and in fact have no real stake in the Daily Press other than a biweekly paycheck that isn't worth that much) its odd that I suddenly have such strong opinions about Zell and his top minion (Chief Innovation Officer Lee Abrams). Even odder is that my instinct is to finally stick up for them. Timing seems to put Zell solely to blame for the apparent collapse of a respected media giant. But in truth, he was given the mess we're in now. It may be his drastic cuts and quick decision to try to sell-off such superfluous holdings as Careerbuilder and the Chicago Cubs (why a newspaper would need a baseball team is something I have not been able to understand) that are keeping us from actually having to go bankrupt.
So that said, all of those commenting on the situation are really not helping by attacking Zell and gleefully cackling about the downfall of his plan. All that does is make it harder for those of us actually affected by the company's failures to buckle-down and try to remake journalism.

For other comments on the Tribune check out Buzz Machine, Newspaper Deathwatch, Recovering Journalist, and Web 2.0h really?. These are all blogs and offer a range of comments about Zell's affect on the Tribune and the news industry. My favorite is the old rebuttal from Jeff Jarvis on the Buzz Machine which says that Zell can't be blamed for something that is the result of "decades of egotistical and willfully ignorant neglect by the owners, managers — and staff — at" newspapers.

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